Tortilla Flat tells a strange rendition of King Arthur's tales. Three "paisanos," as they are called--Pirate, Jesus Maria, Pablo, Pilon-- are drawn to Danny's house and find home as his friend. I admit, I waited around for several chapters, hoping to see more of the Arthurian legend peek through in Monterey. In the end, it all came together.
The time period is fascinating, during the Great Depression, when nobody can easily get a job; the five men, after seeing how difficult and serious life is, essentially give up and drink their troubles away. If any of them can find wine, they start drinking it before they get home. They spend their days on the porch of Danny's house, swatting at flies, while everyone else in Monterey is living their lives.
The point of the story is that these men watch other people live their lives rather than get ones of their own, and it worked well in this story. It did get a little repetitive to read, though, from a plot standpoint.
Pointless observation: at one point a "Jenny's house in Salinas" is mentioned in this book. There is a Jenny's whorehouse mentioned in Steinbeck's later work East of Eden, and I think it might be in Salinas. I wonder if he intended it to be the same one.